National Post

Saturday, November 30, 2002

Shiva's disappearance 'no random tiger-napping'

Chris Wattie
National Post

(A tiger.)

A tiger has been kidnapped from a small, private zoo north of Toronto in what police were describing yesterday as a possible "custodial tiger-napping."

Shiva, an eight-month-old Bengal tiger, was taken from her enclosure at Guha's Lions and Tigers in Bracebridge on Thursday by two women who were "known to the tiger," Ontario Provincial Police said yesterday.

"This was not a random tiger-napping," said OPP spokesman Ted Smith in Bracebridge, about 200 kilometres north of Toronto. "They were familiar with the cat."

Shiva is described as nearly two metres long, weighing about 50 kilograms, and is declawed.

Mr. Smith said police have a good idea who made off with the young tiger and are searching for a suspect. "We know the suspect's name and we're trying to locate them."

Nanda Guha, the owner of the private zoo, said he is distraught at Shiva's kidnapping, but knows the identity of the animal's captors.

"It was a mother and daughter," he said from his home just outside Bracebridge. "They come in quite often to see the tiger. They knew it."

He said the husband of one of the women donated the tiger this year.

Mr. Guha, 62, said he was showing the tiger to a woman and her daughter on Thursday afternoon. He went to get food for Shiva, but returned to find the pair loading him into the back seat of a car.

"I asked her: 'What are you doing with my tiger?' And she says: 'I'm kidnapping it.' "

He believes the tiger-nappers want a ransom, but said he is worried they will sell the animal to a hunting park where he will be killed for sport. "They've got people who pay thousands of dollars to shoot a tiger."

Mr. Guha said Shiva is "very friendly" and would not hurt a human unless provoked.

Police said they do not believe the tiger has been let loose to roam the area. "There isn't really a concern to the public," Mr. Smith said.

"We believe it's in the hands of someone who cares for it. We don't believe it's in the Bracebridge area any more."

Michael Hackenberger, the director of the Bowmanville Zoo, said the case raises troubling questions about the treatment of endangered species and unaccredited zoos or animal parks.

"What the heck is a tiger doing up in Bracebridge? It's obviously not at an accredited zoo."

Mr. Hackenberger said it was "reprehensible" for anyone to steal a Bengal tiger, an endangered species found in the wild only in small protected areas in India and Bangladesh.

He said Ontario has almost no regulations for private menageries or game parks.

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